A shrieking Mexican banshee makes life hell for a young single mother and her cute kids in this knowing but dull horror
Retro seventies setting? Check! Wise old prelate who, like, knows stuff? Check! People being pinned against walls by malevolent forces? Check! A maverick former priest with a talent for macabre one liners? Check! Jump scares telegraphed loooong minutes in advance? Double check!
The latest frantic and very loud addition to the faint by numbers Conjuring "universe" sees a kind of Mexican banshee, who has killed her own children in a act of self-sabotaging revenge, come back from the dead - or possibly Spring break in Cancun - to claim the offspring of other more fortunate mothers.
This is La Llorona and dressed in dirty rags and a crusty old veil, she is more pissed off than Uma Thurman as The Bride in Kill Bill. Her latest victims are Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), a single mother struggling to juggle her job as a social worker while raising her two young kids after the death of her policeman husband.
After two many close calls with this weeping woman, in desperation she calls exorcist Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), who arrives with a bag of tricks including some nice potpourri to act as a barrier against a spooky home invasion of Anna’s big old and very draughty house.
The kids are great, Cardellini does her best but it’s Cruz (so very good in Breaking Bad) as Olvera who brings some knowing fun to proceedings with his dead pan observations and strange habit of disappearing at the wrong moment. It ain’t scary, that’s for sure. A brief glimpse of Scooby Doo on the family’s television is the most chilling thing here.
But that’s hardly the point; Conjuring movies are designed to provide as many snorts of derision as jump out of your seat moments and you’d have to bow to director Michael Chaves’ decision - or not - to make this look and feel like a chop up (if you will) of previous and maybe even future films in the series.
Helpfully, The Curse of La Llorona even crowbars in an expository mention of that damn doll Annabelle to prove that yes, this is indeed a franchise, this time with a Mexican twist. Let’s hope Trump doesn’t see it.
Alan Corr @CorrAlan2